What to look for (and what to avoid)
Starting and owning a business goes beyond having a career. I believe it’s a spiritual journey as well. As business owners, we are regularly faced with unexpected challenges that can feel overwhelming, confusing, stressful, and lonely to navigate — but it doesn’t have to be!
Each challenge is an invitation to grow. And if you want to grow your business, you’ll be forced to grow personally as well. You have to be willing to discover new things about yourself and achieve greater heights of self-awareness. All that growing and changing isn’t easy, and the right coach can be an excellent partner for your journey.
Having a coach by your side is not only a great investment for your business, it’s a great investment for your personal development too. I’ve been a business coach for 3+years,, and these are the most common benefits I’ve seen:
- Clarity on the direction of your life and business (the vision), why you are doing it (your motivation) and how you are going to achieve your goals (the plan)
- Support and accountability
- An ongoing conversation about improving your business and life
- Troubleshooting for all the things that come up on your journey
- A safe space to vent and talk business all you need (yes, your friends are over listening about your email campaign set up and deciding between WordPress and Square space)
And these are the most common results:
- Peace of mind from knowing you’re are on the right path
- More profits, time, freedom, joy and self-expression
- Stronger relationships
- Better health and wellbeing
Step #1: Get clarity on what you need from a coach.
Jot down exactly what kind of help and support you think you need from a coach. Write freely knowing you’re the only person that’s going to read this. It will help you bring forward thoughts and feelings you may have not thought about before.
Describe your best-case scenario for a coach. Do you need someone patient and supportive or someone edgy who challenges you? Maybe it’s a combination of both! Get clear on the coaching style you like best so when you’re talking to coaches you have a better idea of who will be the right fit.
Also, make sure to think of deal breakers. Figure out what days and times work best for you. Think about the length of sessions you would like and how many times you’d like to meet on a weekly or monthly basis.
For example, working with a coach over the phone has been proven to be the most effective as it limits many distractions and saves travel time. Therefore, you may not want to contact coaches who meet in person only.
Step #2: Begin your search.
Perform an online search for a business coach or maybe coaches with a narrow specialty if that’s what you need, like a writing coach if you’re a writer. See what comes up organically.
If you’re coming up empty, try thinking of people around you who you look up to and ask if they know a coach that they can recommend. You’d be surprised how many people have their own coach.
Step #3: Narrow your results based on these criteria.
Find an independent coach with their own practice and website. They’ll be able to relate to you as an entrepreneur. Big names in the coaching industry have a team of coaches under their brand who work for them. You’ll probably be assigned to talk to a coach without knowing much about them personally. They may have gone through a specific training which is a plus but they also have sales quotas. If that coach is given a “lead” they’ll need to convert it to a client and then hope it’s a good fit. Independent coaches, on the other hand, tend to be more motivated to help you because they want to and because they feel it’s a good fit.
Next, look for coaches who offer a complimentary session, consultation, or a strategy call. Get an idea of what a session will be like if you can. What you want from an “exploration” call is an opportunity to experience coaching with that person and get a feel for what being their client would be like.
Then you’ll want to check out their reviews on Google or Yelp. Hearing from their other clients is a great way to learn about what they offer and what they’ve found valuable.
Also, make sure that they have a consistent internet presence. You should be able to check out social profiles like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram in addition to their website. It’s great to be able to get a little impression of the person before you pick up the phone.
Their website should provide some essential information about what kind of coaching they do. A coach who is constantly honing their craft will make sure to show something about themself on their website, including their credentials.
An ICF coaching certification is a gold standard. It often takes a long time to accumulate coaching hours to be able to claim those credentials, so check in with your coach if they are in that process of becoming an ACC or a PCC. If they are an MCC, there’s a good chance they also have years of coaching experience.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. I’ve had an okay experience working with a certified coach (actually it was straight up disappointing) and I’ve mentored brilliant coaches with no formal coach-specific training who made a huge difference for their clients. A call should help you find all of that out.
Just remember: you are the one doing the hiring. You need the coach to help you with your needs. Don’t fall into any people-pleasing traps.
Step #4: Prepare a list of questions to ask your coach.
Usually, coaches have lots of consultation calls under their belt and they should be able to lead the call smoothly. Most of the time, you can expect them to ask you a lot of questions mixed up with information about their business. However, being prepared will help you to remember to ask the essentials in case they forget to cover something. Also, it will help you later when you are comparing coaches.
Ultimately, you should be able to “feel” if someone is the right fit for you. Still, it will be nice to have some data to compare. Here are a few questions you can ask:
- Tell me why you became a coach. I was recently caught off guard by a prospect, and I loved that she asked that. My motivation spoke greatly to why I am in this line of work and helped her get to know and trust me.
- What happens on a usual coaching call?
- Who is your ideal client, what type of clients do you usually work with?
- What is your coaching style?
- Would I be able to read references or contact some of your clients? Maybe you found a coach on social media, they had a great website but they don’t have enough reviews, or for some reason, you’re not 100% sure they’ll serve the needs you have. Speaking with other clients can be a great resource of information.
- What are some of your client’s recent victories?
If you feel things are going well, then you can discover more on “how things work” by asking about their prices, cancellation policies, and how you begin and stop working with them.
Feel free to ask more questions but this will give you a good idea of what this coach is all about.
Step #5: Pay attention to great coach clues.
Remember that a great coach asks a ton of questions. As coaches, we need to know WHO you are, WHERE you want to go and WHO are you willing to become to achieve your goals. A great coach will ask you a lot of open-ended questions that will get you thinking and saying: “What a great question!”
A coach should show some signs of excitement when they tell you about the benefits of coaching and when they hear about your goals. Us coaches are strong believers in our service, and I’m sure you’ll be able to catch that excitement if you are working with someone who finds joy in what they do.
You don’t want to work with someone who is bored, overworked, or just not passionate about coaching. You also want to feel as they take a genuine interest in what you want to accomplish and you want to feel their excitement to become part of your journey.
Sometimes you’re better off working with someone with less experience but tons of enthusiasm than with an expert who isn’t caring.
Step #6: Watch for red flags.
A coach who isn’t trying to get to know you or your goals and is focusing the call on telling you why you should work with them is a red flag. Unfortunately, once I heard a coach say that they offer prospects a “strategy” call which she explained is actually a “sales” call. Nothing wrong with selling your services, however not being transparent always rubs me the wrong way.
Another possible concern is if the coach goes right into problem-solving for you and starts listing suggestions for your goals. At first, it may seem as they are delivering a great deal of value because they are giving you new ideas, BUT a great coach has a much bigger job than to offer you a buffet of solutions.
A great coach will first identify the need you are trying to satisfy. Then, when it’s clear what’s really going on, they’ll support you in finding solutions so you can move forward. Often, what we perceive to be the problem isn’t really it. If a coach rolls up her sleeves and starts problem-solving (most new coaches would) they miss the big picture and the root cause. In a way, they are just treating the symptoms. So the actual problem never goes away and keeps reappearing.
So if you ask a coach a direct question and they say “What do you think?,” don’t get annoyed. Pat yourself on the back for picking a well-trained professional.
I hope this guide was helpful. I’m only one email away if you have any questions 🙂